Ways To Start A Conversation With Your Boss About Your Mental Health

Dealing with a mental illness is a difficult task that many of us take on daily. Talking about our needs due to our condition is even more difficult. Because mental illness is usually an invisible sickness, most of us never know who has one, but more of us are living with one than we realize. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness in a year. Although mental illnesses are very common, there is still so much shame and embarrassment wrapped around discussing our mental health in the home and the workplace

Because of these feelings, it's very daunting for some people to even imagine speaking to their boss about their mental illness. If you are thinking about telling your boss about some of the mental health issues you face each day, there are ways to go about doing so that can make this process less intimidating. The results from a conversation with your boss could benefit you in your work life, and make your day-to-day routines less painful.

The stigma of mental illness

Although 40 million American adults have a mental illness, there is still a stigma of shame partnered with admitting to others the challenges that accompany them (via Psycom). The first step in working to get your boss to understand your health needs is to admit to yourself that these requests are valid and important. Because you may require specific accommodations to perform your tasks at work adequately, your boss will benefit from knowing this information to aid in understanding your productivity level and emotional needs. Learning to accept that these challenges are no different from needing physical help to perform daily tasks will benefit both parties in the long run.

Employ self-awareness

Before speaking to someone else about your condition, take a minute to understand your needs yourself. According to Harvard Business Review, taking the time to reflect on what you're experiencing and what you'll need to be most productive and healthy at work is an important step to take. If your condition is affecting your work performance periodically as opposed to consistently, your needs will be different. By assessing what you need to request before speaking with your boss, you'll be more likely to be confident during this important conversation.

Know your resources

Talking with your employer about your mental health challenges does seem like a difficult task, but there are resources on your side. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) "prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government programs and services." Knowing that you're legally protected is an important first step The next step is to consider if your boss is a safe person with whom you can speak about your needs (via Insider). Your boss is more than likely a good contact for your company's mental health resources, and opening the lines of communication surrounding this topic can be very beneficial.

Decide what you'll disclose

Whether you've had a mental illness diagnosed, or you are still in the process of finding a doctor to help you diagnose what is going on with your mental health, you are the one who gets to decide what you'll disclose to your employer. According to Talk Space, there is no requirement for telling your boss what you need, but not doing so means you may be depriving yourself of some valuable accommodations. Time off of work, fluctuating productivity expectations, and flexible schedules are all small adjustments that can be made if your employer is made aware of your needs.

Starting the conversation with your boss

While you don't have to disclose information about your mental health to your boss, not doing so means you may not get what you need to maintain a healthy workplace. Approach the conversation carefully and understand that you do not have to disclose any diagnoses to your boss. Make sure to pick a time that isn't during your busy workday and consider writing down what you plan to say so that you've thought it out fully before going into a meeting (via Talk Space). When you're meeting, be confident that what you're doing is the right step to caring for yourself appropriately.

When it comes down to it, the only person who knows what you need to be your best is you. By advocating for your needs and being open with your boss, you'll not only be helping yourself, but you'll also be instrumental in helping your boss understand how to keep you healthy and productive at work. In this conversation, both of you benefit.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.